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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Nadia portrait in progress 13

Now you can see how there is a diagonal row of pale figures. Julianna was pastel colors already (except she had a darker dress which I changed to light blue) and I made Hernan and free-stacked Nadia lighter than normal also. You can now see what I call the “flow” of a composition: Stacked Nadia, with her rich colors and dense black, stands out as the important figure regardless of where she is placed. Your eye goes there first. The tall shape of the Top 20 ribbon ties the two stacked Nadias together. It’s long tails are like an arrow pointing up to free-stacked-Nadia. But her downward pointing head and the “bulls-eye” of the Top 20 rosette stops your eye from exiting out the top of the artwork.


Then those 3 heads in a descending row — upper Nadia, Hernan, and Julianna — carries your eye down a diagonal slope from upper left. But there is nothing to stop your eye from continuing out the right edge of the artwork. The final figure — Nadia holding her dish — will not be done in pale colors. She will be in deep rich colors and dense black like stacked-Nadia. That will stop your eye on that downward slide and hold it right there, with a figure that is just as important as stacked-Nadia. She is gazing intensely at you while doing something she loves to do: carrying her dish. That will show Nadia’s personality just as stacked-Nadia shows her beautiful structure.

Colored pencl portrait of Grand Champion, Top Twenty Doberman, in progress

I’ve placed the two most important figures, not in the center as you’d expect, but far to the right, and down in the bottom half…yet I’ve made them the most important features of the artwork. (While also including all the other things Katherine wanted in this portrait: two humans, two ribbons, and Nadia’s dish.) They are the most important figures because of the “flow” of the composition.


There are so many things for an artist to think about when designing a complex portrait like this. Do the colors go together? Do all the figures and objects work? But an artist who doesn’t think about the “flow” of a painting: how and where it carries your eye (your attention), is leaving out the most important factor of all.

This picture shows a diagram of the visual flow. It is actually a loop that continually carries your attention back to stacked-Nadia. The whole loop echoes the shape of her body.

Portrait with flow lines diagrammed in pink

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